PHILADELPHIA—A new exhibit by Aleksandra Mir didn’t go over so
well at the Philadelphia Inquirer, not because of a bad review but
because it was located in the newspaper’s public room and some
employees took offense. Titled
The Philadelphia Inquirer,
the exhibit consists of eight collaged section-front pages of the
Inquirer and focuses on women as presented in the paper’s pages.
Often text and image are juxtaposed in a jarring way, such as a
photograph of female roller bladders wrapped around text describing
women "power brokers”
The exhibit is part of Hidden City, a month-long arts festival
taking place in historic spaces across the city. But now those
venues no longer include the Inquirer’s public room, often used as
a gallery space by such institutions as the Moore College of Art.
Philadelphia Newspapers, which owns the Inquirer, has decided to
move The Philadelphia Inquirer off the premises Mir Exhibit Offends at Philly Inquirer,
artinfo.com, New York, June 2009
After objection, controversial art exhibit to
by Stephan Salisbury, philly.com, Philadelphia, June 3, 2009
In what appears to be an instance of serial miscommunication, an
exhibition in The Inquirer's public room was removed Monday,
largely because some editors and managers thought the exhibit was a
joke and others were offended by the subject matter.
In fact, the
exhibit was part of Hidden City, a monthlong arts festival
unfolding in historic spaces across Philadelphia, including the
Inquirer and Daily News Building on North Broad Street.
night, Ed Mahlman, Philadelphia Newspapers' vice president of
marketing, said the company had decided to move the exhibit to
another venue while still fulfilling its commitment to promote the
"We are talking to our partner Hidden City about finding an
alternative venue," Mahlman said. He said the company wanted to
respect the feelings of some employees who took offense at some of
the material and to fulfill its contractual obligations with
Peregrine Arts, producer of Hidden City.
The new location is
still being discussed, Mahlman said
Thaddeus A. Squire, Peregrine's artistic executive director,
could not be reached last night. In an earlier interview, he called
the affair "somewhat a comedy of errors, but an interesting one
Inquirer by Aleksandra Mir, consists of eight collaged
section-front pages of the paper, each with the Inquirer logo and
filled with material culled from the paper's archives.
Wilson, an assistant managing editor, the works - which contained
provocative juxtapositions of type and photos involving women -
were "strikingly inappropriate," particularly in a workplace. But
since the exhibit panels were not identified in any way, Wilson
said, she had no idea they were part of an art exhibition.
did Brian P. Tierney, publisher of The Inquirer and chief executive
of Philadelphia Media Holdings L.L.C., or several other executives
and editors who gathered Monday evening to celebrate the paper's
anniversary in the public room. Tierney, thinking the work "a gag,"
suggested that it be removed after Wilson complained
The artist, an avowed feminist, was in Italy yesterday and not
available for comment. She has shown work all over the United
States and Europe, and often has explored newspapers as shapers and
embodiments of cultural memory.
Inquirer focuses on women as presented in the pages of The
Inquirer, often juxtaposing text and image in a jarring way: a
photograph of female roller bladers wrapped around text describing
women "power brokers"; a snippet of news about Nancy Pelosi next to
a photograph of a bikini-clad woman.
Officials at Peregrine said
they received permission to hang the works from the paper's
marketing department. The public room, as Tierney pointed out, is
often used as a gallery space by such institutions as Moore College
"We don't endorse the cause or create it," he said. "I
don't know who the artist is. But I'm not going to be the one to
censor this artist. "
Both Tierney and Mahlman said removal of the
works resulted from confusion as much as anything else. That
confusion had some irreversible consequences: Faux news pages
created by Mir and meant to be taken away by viewers were removed
and apparently thrown away.
Squire said that the works had
identifying labels when they were installed May 18. But for some
reason, the labels were removed
Inquirer reinstalls artwork
by Stephan Salisbury, philly.com, Philadelphia, June 6, 2009
An art exhibition removed from The Inquirer's first-floor public
room on Monday following employee objections and confusion over its
content has been reinstalled on the 18th floor of the newspaper
building at 400 N. Broad St.
The dismantling of Aleksandra Mir's
The Philadelphia Inquirer which consisted of eight large
mock Inquirer section fronts, was the result of several
misunderstandings, according to officials at The Inquirer and at
Peregrine Arts, the exhibit's presenter.
The faux fronts featured
material drawn directly from the newspaper's archives, but
reconfigured by the highly regarded artist in sometimes jarring,
sometimes humorous fashion.
Zeroing in on a fragmented and veiled
portrayal of women in news, advertisements, captions, and photos,
the exhibit was mounted as part of Peregrine's Hidden City, a
festival of performances and exhibitions taking place at historic
venues throughout Philadelphia this month
The Philadelphia Inquirer will be open to the public on
weekends from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. until the end of June.
been in Italy and unavailable for comment.
Jay Devine, an
Inquirer spokesman, said the newspaper would honor its agreements
with Peregrine and had worked with the presenter to relocate the
exhibit. A spokeswoman for Peregrine said the exhibition would
continue as planned at The Inquirer. She had no further comment.
Still unresolved was how to replace a stack of mock Inquirer
sections that had been printed as exhibit takeaways. The sections
were discarded Monday after newspaper officials thought they
represented some kind of joke or prank.
Some employees had
complained about the mock fronts, which were not accompanied by
identifying labels and featured such images as tussling female
roller-derby players next to blocks of news text discussing female
"political power brokers. "
The 18th floor of the Inquirer and
Daily News Building, in the iconic white tower, is largely unused
these days. In the past, it served as a home base for special
Battle Hymn at the Armory and other Hidden City
by Jacob Hellman, theartblog.org, Philadelphia, June 21, 2009
Finally, just before 7pm, I ascended 18 floors of the Inquirer
Building on North Broad to see Aleksandra Mir’s piece titled
The Philadelphia Inquirer. I anticipated it too literally;
the elevator opened to only a small office with dropped ceiling and
a secretary facing me – whoops, that’s the docent. No typewriters
dangled from above, nor was there re-mixed audio of editors and
writers hollering across a newsroom. ‘Installation’ is not an
applicable term. Instead, Aleksandra has cut up and re-mixed
headlines, images, and copy from the past nine years of the
Inquirer, and hung them in staid frames around the room. Every
re-created page makes clear the absurdity of biased gender coverage
in our society’s most venerable of institutions, the daily paper.
Trifling headlines like “Girls Left Wounded By Hook-up Culture” are
juxtaposed with articles on e.g. the dearth of females on corporate
boards, mismatched to photos of…Hillary Clinton and…women in
I fully endorse Aleksandra’s agenda. I also share her
stated concern that “the future of newspapers is under increasing
threat.” However, for a site-specific festival, you do not feel
that she spent much time stewing in her particular spot. (The
docent seated by the giant corinthian columns at Girard College, in
contrast, shared with me her take of that piece: “it seems to come
up from the ground of the place”)
Visually, in its materiality,
The Philadelphia Inquirer
also fails to satisfy. I’d have loved real collages, but Alexandra
only got to the paper’s digital archives. Short of newsprint, I
wish she’d worked with her digital printer to make them bigger –
they’re a bit diminutive compared to the morning paper’s full
spread – and blacker – everything’s got a dark blue hue, not a true
newspaper black. Finally, the work itself was quite quotidian; I
saw the irony but not the art.
Interestingly, Aleksandra did
manage to rile some powerful elements at the Inquirer, who, after
its opening weekend in the building’s lobby, ordered the work moved
up to the unused 18th floor. The paper even covered the controversy
themselves. Whoever was offended clearly misunderstood the target
of her critique: she’s pointing to a society-wide gender bias, with
the Inquirer only an easily visible manifestation
The artist's response
by Aleksandra Mir, July, 2009
Invited to take part in "Hidden City", a festival of
performances and exhibitions taking place at historic venues
throughout Philadelphia with the objective to engage artists with
local industry, I made the
Philadelphia Inquirer my site
of choice. The project was to utlize the archives of the The
Inquirer and create a new work of art in a feedback loop.
Hundreds of articles on the subject of women were sourced directly
from and in co-operation with the paper. These were then cut up and
reassembled in an condensed mix of seemingly arbitrary design. The
creation of a mash-up of content - adverts and editorial - reveals
the often contradictory messages that the reader picks up from the
paper as a whole and is then left to sort out any confusion for him
The original intention and contract stipulated that the layouts
were to be inserted directly back into the newspaper, one page at a
time. This never happened. The commissioner decided to print all 8
pages as an isolated and separate publication to be distributed in
the lobby of
The Inquirer's office headquarters instead.
This version of the work was subsequently censored and removed
(destroyed?) by some offended employees. A third version was then
exhibited and framed behind glass on the commissioner's initiative
and design. At this point, I felt my original idea had been
compromised to such an extent that I walked away from the whole